the final shape review

Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review – A Worthy Finale

Delivering on a 10 year promise.

It’s no secret that the games industry has been chasing the live-service golden sheep over the last 10 or so years. The obsession with the idea of games as a service has resulted in countless cancellations, closures, and lay-offs across the board. To make matters worse, the oft-gilded studios that author these games very rarely want to develop these kind of experiences, and are ill-equipped to do so. There have been a few highlights, though. Massive Entertainment’s The Division, Arrowhead’s smash hit Helldivers 2, and perhaps most prominently, Bungie’s Destiny.

Destiny felt like the first real foray into an ambitious commitment for a live-service experience. Between it being Bungie’s first post-Halo title, having a grand plan for a decade-long narrative, and trying to meld the novelty of looter-shooters with MMO-like elements, Destiny had its work cut out for it, and then some. As someone who’s been around since the start, Destiny has had its fair share of ups and downs, but Bungie always delivers where it counts. As the final chapter in this 10 year saga, The Final Shape is more than just a shot in the arm for Destiny, it’s a triumphant achievement emblematic of all Bungie’s learnings over the last decade.

the final shape review

It’s another day in the Last City. Humanity, Eliksni, and Cabal alike go about their lives with the imminent threat of the Witness looming overhead. It’s a bittersweet reminder of the progress we’ve made with former enemies and our potentially cataclysmic loss on Neomuna during last year’s Lightfall expansion. The warmth of this scene is quickly ripped away from us, though, presenting a nightmarish vision of what happens if the Witness achieves its final shape. Beings from all corners of the universe indiscriminately sliced up, separated, and calcified with surgical precision.

With little time left on the clock, our Guardian and the Vanguard traverse the portal into the Pale Heart of the Traveler to put a stop to the Witness’s machinations once and for all. What follows is a deeply personal and intimate dissection of Destiny’s key players. Cayde-6, Ikora, Zavala, and Crow are all put through a stress test in the face of cosmic annihilation. It stands in stark contrast with Lightfall’s more unserious tone, placing less focus on the what as it delves deeply into the who.

the final shape review

The end result is Destiny’s best core narrative yet. One that trusts its audience to connect the dots between its intricate lore and character motivations. It’s refreshingly abstract for Destiny, nudging you towards satisfying conclusions while leaving room for more exploration and conjecture. It delivers by answering so many lingering questions we’ve had about the nature of the universe, the light, the darkness, the Traveler, the Witness, and more. It does all of this without relying on convoluted terms and exposition, instead opting for simple and sensical answers that reinforces Destiny’s core themes.

The character explorations here are simply the best we’ve seen in-game. Zavala is grappling with the Traveler’s continued silence in the wake of our greatest threat yet. Cayde-6 is struggling to make sense of why he’s been brought back in the light, and for what purpose. Crow continues to be one of the game’s best characters, as he tries to navigate his feelings in relation to the return of Cayde-6 and his place in the world going forward.

the final shape preview

Even the Witness, whose most important character details have been relegated to seasonal content, gets a healthy dose of development throughout the campaign. It finally feels representative of the threat that it poses to the broader universe, injecting some light cosmic horror elements into this ancient conflict. It’s another addition to Destiny’s pantheon of legendary adversaries, standing alongside the likes of Savathûn the Witch Queen and Oryx the Taken King.

The first half of the campaign is a slow burn that gives its character dynamics and key interactions room to breathe, lending more poignancy to its most heartfelt moments of reunion, betrayal, and camaraderie. This time spent with the Vanguard segues into a thrilling race to the finish line, culminating in an incredible penultimate mission that sets the stage for The Final Shape’s raid and conclusion. It’s rare we get campaigns that are directly tied to the raid of an expansion, but this is proof that it’s something Bungie should continue to invest in going forward.

the final shape review

The campaign design itself is also stellar, echoing a lot of the combat challenge and dungeon-like encounters found in the Witch Queen and Lightfall campaigns. Each mission introduces a new concept, pushes it to its logical end-point, and throws it away for something new in the following mission. The Pale Heart itself is also curated for the kind of urgency needed for this campaign. It’s Destiny’s first truly linear destination, with each mission taking you through a different part of the Traveler’s recreations as you move towards the Witness’s monolith.

These things in combination make for a tightly paced 4-5 hour campaign that encompasses so many different locales, story beats, and gameplay experiences. Difficulty is another key part of the puzzle here, with the returning Legendary mode offering a worthwhile challenge for experienced Guardians. My only real gripe here is that the first half of the campaign does feel a bit too easy, and by the time it picks up, it reaches its conclusion. This is partly due to the amount of power creep we’ve seen in recent times, but is also because of The Final Shape’s most exciting inclusion; Prismatic.

the final shape preview

Prismatic is the fusion between a thematic throughline established in 2020’s Beyond Light and the gameplay equivalent of blowing the door off the hinges of the game’s current sandbox. A brand-new subclass that erases the ever-blurry line between light and dark, allowing our Guardian to tap into both at the same time. It’s a wildly empowering gameplay experience that feels like you’re cheating. Letting you make use of combinations that’ve been pipedreams for the longest time.

Each class has access to specific Supers, Aspects, Grenades, and Melees from each Subclass. The selections available on each Prismatic subclass have been carefully curated as to not entirely break the game, while still offering a gameplay experience that’s unlike any other subclass in the game. It takes more thought and engagement from the player in comparison to traditional subclasses. It forces you to think more about synergies and combinations, opening the pandora’s box that is buildcrafting for those who’ve yet to fall into its depths.

the final shape preview

Prismatic is further bolstered by two things. The first is Transcendence, which is a sort of mini-Super that can be activated after doing enough light and dark damage. While Transcendent, you gain access to a dual-element grenade, increased ability regen, and a flat weapon damage buff. Each class also has a sweet animation when you activate it, with Warlocks striking a mystic pose, Hunter’s brandishing their knives, and Titan’s cracking their knuckles in glorious fashion. Transcendence is just fantastic. It feels so damn good to have a build setup that heightens your Transcendence uptime, and is so thematically resonant with The Final Shape as an expansion.

The second is the inclusion of new light Supers and Aspects. Warlocks have received a much needed shake-up to their Solar toolkit in Song of Flame and Hellion. The former is a new Super reminiscent of Destiny’s Radiance, while the latter is an Aspect that lends you a Solar turret upon Class Ability activation. Another highlight is the Titan’s Twilight Arsenal Super and Unbreakable Aspect. Twilight Arsenal sees you hurling three Void axes that can then be picked up and used in combat by you and your allies, while Unbreakable allows you to put up a shield that absorbs attacks, and sends it back in a Void blast.

the final shape review

The Hunter’s new tools are similarly unique within their own sandbox, and while the viability of each is up for debate, it’s hard to deny that they’re all damn cool. The way in which you get these new Supers is also phenomenal. This rings true for Prismatic in general, unlocking a default kit for you during the first mission and slowly dolling out new Fragments, Aspects, and Supers to play around with as you complete the campaign and explore the Pale Heart. It’s a far cry from the way Beyond Light and Lightfall dangled their new Subclasses in front of you until the campaign wraps.

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When it comes to putting these new tools to the test, what could be better than a new enemy faction? The Dread is our first truly Darkness-aligned enemy race, shaped by the Witness within the Pale Heart. While the intimidating Tormentors were brought to us in Lightfall, every other member of the Dread is entirely new, and they shake up the sandbox in big ways.

the final shape review

The Weavers and the Attendants are Strand and Stasis empowered Psions respectively, using these Darkness powers to flush you out of cover and deny area. The Weavers are particularly tricky given they can physically move you with their Strand attacks, pulling you into perilous positions during combat. The Grim are Destiny’s first flying enemy, equipped with an ear-piercing screech that suppresses your abilities for a short time. The last of the minor units are the Husks, who expel explosive Geists upon death that hunt you down if you dispatch them incorrectly.

The Subjugators are the other boss units that stand with the Tormentors. These are souped-up versions of the Weavers and the Attendants, also using Stasis and Strand to freeze you, suspend you, and generally be a nuisance. The Dread are an enemy faction unlike any we’ve seen within the game, forcing you to think about how you move and position more thoughtfully than you usually would. They’re an unmitigated success, and I truly hope we see more of them in the future.

the final shape review

The Pale Heart as a destination is also one of Bungie’s best. It echoes the the same secret-harbouring nature as the Dreaming City and the Dreadnought, leaning into player discovery and exploration instead of checklisting things to do each time you login. A big part of this is thanks to Overthrow, the Pale Heart’s destination activity which can be done in its three main zones.

Overthrow (and the Pale Heart by extension) is interesting because it isn’t a matchmade activity. One of the three zones will have a matchmade feature each week for those interested, but if you just load into patrol, it’ll only be you and anyone else in your fireteam. It’s reminiscent of Escalation Protocol from Warmind, where you complete myriad public events and encounters to increase the Overthrow level. Upon reaching level 4, you’ll take down a boss and be rewarded for it. It’s a great activity that feels easygoing yet engaging in the amount of variety it offers.

the final shape review

The Pale Heart is jam-packed with other stuff to find as well. A healthy chunk of the Prismatic Fragments can only be found through environmental puzzles waiting for you throughout the destination. Obtaining the Exotic Khvostov 7G-0X also requires a good bit of exploration. It’s refreshing to see a destination made so relevant through meaningful design, encouraging players to uncover its secrets and understand its myriad intricacies.

Most things you do in the Pale Heart will also feed into the Pathfinder. A progression system entirely new to Destiny 2, Pathfinder is a streamlined feature that makes it easier to track your progress towards rewards. As you complete different objectives, you’ll progress through Pathfinder Nodes until you reach the end. The Pathfinder can be reset indefinitely for a Glimmer cost, but has diminishing returns after its first couple of resets. It’s a great system that’s easy to understand and engage with as you explore the Pale Heart.

the final shape review

The Pathfinder system has also been implemented to work with the Ritual Playlists. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t function as well here. This version of Pathfinder will often force you into activities and playlists you don’t want to engage with to get rewards. The objectives are awkward and ill-fitted for the purposes its been built for here. It feels counterintuitive to bounce between playlists to complete certain objectives to get to the final Node when these rewards were previously very flexible in how you acquire them.

After you’ve done some secret hunting in the Pale Heart, it’s likely you’ll stumble across Dual Destiny. Dual Destiny is perhaps Bungie’s best-designed Exotic mission yet. It can only be done with two players, no more, no less. It pushes the limits on the kinds of mechanics we see in these missions to make for challenging encounters with high enemy density and a need for constant communication. It’s also thematically brilliant, ultimately rewarding you with the powerful Exotic Class Items that can roll with two Exotic perks at once to use with your Prismatic builds.

the final shape review

No Destiny expansion is complete without a raid, The Final Shape’s coming in the form of Salvation’s Edge. This is a fantastic raid, one of Bungie’s best, with smartly-designed encounters that require engagement from all raid members and a combat challenge that feels suitable for a raid of this grandeur. It was a true force to reckon with on Contest Mode, and past that, has continued to be a great time in subsequent runs. While there are some really high highs in Salvation’s Edge like the Witness fight and the fourth encounter, I do wish there was an extra boss thrown in there somewhere instead of having three puzzle/combat encounters.

The story then culminates in Destiny’s first ever 12-man activity – Excision. As a narrative and gameplay experience, Excision feels like the conclusion that this legendary saga deserves, offering up unmatched scope and scale within the game currently. It feels like an Endgame moment for Destiny, where everyone comes together to fight a greater evil. Without spoiling too much, the story beats that come out of Excision couldn’t be better, delivering an emotionally moving and reflective conclusion that feels tailor-made for long time players.

the final shape review

It feels typical to say that Destiny 2 continues to look fantastic, but it really couldn’t be more true here in The Final Shape. The Pale Heart is one of Destiny’s most visually defined destinations. Wildly eclectic in its assortment of locales, all of which feel bathed in the Traveler’s life-giving light. As you move towards the Witness’s monolith, things become more corrupt and devoid of life. Segments of land are sliced up into their finalised shapes, and things seem normal until you take a closer look at how they’re made up. It feels like a real nostalgia trip given that the Pale Heart is a recreation of our own memories, but is just as inspired as Bungie’s more recent destinations.

The soundtrack is also another certified banger. The way that urgency and introspection is shifted between in these tracks as you venture through the Pale Heart is a joy to listen to. Unmade is another killer final boss track for the raid, and Excision has one of the best soundtracks for a mission that Bungie has ever made. It’s also really cool to see how some of the in-game music has shifted after the events of Excision, showcasing how the live-service elements of Destiny can interact with every facet of it in interesting ways.

the final shape preview

After the disappointment of Lightfall, at the conclusion of Destiny’s first saga, Bungie have managed to deliver their best expansion yet. The Final Shape is a triumphant finish that delivers on its promises, and then some. It also paints a promising picture of Destiny’s future as we see its live-service elements used in new and exciting ways. There’ve been so many moments where things haven’t looked good for Destiny, but Bungie have continually pulled through and delivered an ending worthy of their legacy and the players who’ve invested so much time into this world.

the final shape review
Conclusion
Destiny 2: The Final Shape is another achievement amidst Bungie's countless triumphs. An ending delivering on its seemingly impossible promises with inventive and unique new additions that prove Bungie are far from done with Destiny. While that future remains somewhat uncertain, The Final Shape does offer certainty in its sheer quality and commitment to creating unforgettable player experiences.
Positives
A worthy conclusion to a 10 year saga
Another banger campaign
Prismatic is an incredible addition
Fantastic new end-game content
The Pale Heart is Bungie's best destination yet
Negatives
Campaign difficulty curve feels off
Vanguard Pathfinder is a downgrade
9.5